La Mordida de la Morena: The Bite of the Moray

The mysterious sea becomes even more mysterious at night. 

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We set off in the dinghy right after dinner to explore the small beach in the middle cove of the three at Ensenada Grande. We sat on the soft sand as the sun went down, and the starry sky, shooting stars, and mild evening breeze enticed us to stay until well after dark.

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When it was time to head back to the boat, we waded into the shallow warm water and pulled in the dinghy that floated nearby. We were standing in about a foot of water when K reached in and took out the flashlight. As soon as he turned it on, the water at the far end of the cove erupted in a frenzy of creatures jumping out of the sea, as if maddened by the light. Everyone in the bay was astonished, we on the beach, and the inhabitants of the deep.

We think we had unwittingly illuminated a number of predator/prey relationships who were peacefully coexisting in the dark (the lion shall lay down with the lamb, as long as it’s too dark to see).  K saw a big moray jump out of the water about halfway down the beach, heading toward shore like a bolt of lightning. Then in its panic, the creature launched itself out of the water at the shoreline, as if it were going to beach itself. In the next second we saw the dark wriggling form make a hard starboard turn, rocketing down the wash zone towards us.

With no time to react, it slammed into S’s leg. She screamed, and the force of the impact knocked her over. She could still feel the impact deep in her leg as she scrambled out of the water on all fours, significantly slower than the spooked moray. “That hurt!” S complained. K shined the light on her leg and we were shocked to see a deep gash where the creature had hit. The blood from the wound was already making a pink stain in the white sand at her feet.

We wrapped the leg in the sandy towel we’d been sitting on and hurried back to the boat. After cleaning and bandaging the wound, we decided our best option would be to head back to La Paz, since it was obviously going to need stitches and neither of us really wanted it to be a home job.

We’d been anchored in Ensenada Grande for four days, and the boat was nowhere near ready to go. The sinks were full of our dinner’s unwashed dishes, and sewing paraphernalia from S’s ongoing slip-cover project was scattered all over the salon. Snorkel and fishing gear was deployed everywhere. K went to work stowing everything away. It’s hard to describe the state of un-readiness we were in. It would be similar to deciding in the middle of opening presents on Christmas morning that you should load up the family in a Conestoga wagon and leave for California in an hour.

Since it was already 9 PM we decided to wait until early morning to make the 25 mile trip back to town, but when we found ourselves both awake at 2 AM K decided to get ready to go. This meant he had to pull in the secondary anchor, hoist the outboard motor (aka, “Joey Tohatsu”) off the dinghy and bring it below to its perch in the quarter berth, and hoist and tie the dinghy on deck, primarily by himself. And although we’d come to Ensenada Grande to hide out from the forecasted norther, by 3:30 AM we motored out of the bay and turned our tail to the howling north wind, southbound toward La Paz.

We arrived in the La Paz channel around 8 AM, just in time for the local cruiser’s net on VHF Channel 22. After calling in for a recommendation for where we could get stitches, a woman called for us on the radio. Her name was Susan, she and her husband Dennis were from the boat Two Can Play. She asked where we were, if S was bleeding, or if we needed a doctor to come out to the boat. If we wanted she would call her doctor, who speaks English, and she and her husband would come pick us up in her car and take us to him. We were astonished, and gratefully accepted her generous offer.

When we arrived at the Marina de La Paz dinghy dock, Susan spotted S hopping up the ramp on one leg. True to their word, she and Dennis drove us right to the office of Dr. Enrique Tuchmann. On the way, she called her friends at Club Cruceros and arranged to have some crutches made available to ease S’s hobbling. Dennis dropped us off at the door of Dr. Tuchmann’s office, and Susan waited while S got stitched up.

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The wound, it turns out, was 3-5 cm deep, but luckily had missed any tendons or major blood vessels. The doctor put everything back together with only seven stitches (three on the inside) and sent us on our way.

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After swinging us by a pharmacy to get the antibiotics and pain meds, Susan and Dennis dropped us off, along with the crutches, right back at the dinghy dock. Thank you so much, Susan and Dennis, you couldn’t have made this easier for us!

The whole thing took less than an hour and cost about $1900 less than K’s stitches at Ballard Swedish last spring.

And so it will be Christmas in La Paz with S in the role of Tiny Tim, wishing for turkey but crutching around to the taco shop instead.  “God bless us, every one!”

24°33.90′N 110°24.05′W 16-Dec-09 14:00 PST

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